The meeting was convened in the Commission of Fine Arts offices in the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20001, at 10:06 a.m.
Hon. Earl A. Powell, Chairman
Hon. Edward Dunson
Hon. Liza Gilbert
Hon. Alex Krieger
Hon. Mia Lehrer
Hon. Elizabeth Meyer
Thomas E. Luebke, Secretary
Frederick J. Lindstrom, Assistant Secretary
A. Approval of the minutes of the 20 October meeting. Secretary Luebke reported that the minutes of the October meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Meyer, the Commission approved the minutes. Mr. Luebke said that the minutes will be made available on the Commission's website.
B. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings, as previously published: 19 January, 16 February, and 16 March 2017. He noted that no meeting is scheduled in December. He said that a change to the January meeting date may be necessary to avoid conflicting with preparations for the Presidential inauguration the following day. Chairman Powell suggested determining the new date as soon as possible. [The January meeting was subsequently rescheduled to 23 January.]
C. Report on the President's announced intent to appoint Toni L. Griffin and reappoint Earl A. Powell, III, Elizabeth Meyer, and Alex Krieger to the Commission of Fine Arts. Mr. Luebke reported that President Obama has recently announced that he intends to appoint Toni L. Griffin to a four-year term as a member of the Commission. He summarized Ms. Griffin's work as an architect and urban designer, currently teaching at Harvard's Graduate School of Design and running a private planning consultancy based in New York. He noted her past public-sector positions in Washington, Detroit, and Newark. He said that President Obama has also announced his intent to reappoint Mr. Powell, Ms. Meyer, and Mr. Krieger to new four-year terms on the Commission.
D. Recognition of the service of Philip Freelon, 2012 to 2016. Mr. Luebke reported that Ms. Griffin would replace Philip Freelon, who has served on the Commission since 2011. He read a portion of a letter of appreciation from Chairman Powell to Mr. Freelon.
Mr. Luebke noted the recent deaths of two former Commission members: John Belle, who served on the Commission from 2005 to 2011, as reported at the September meeting; and Diana Balmori, who served on the Commission from 2003 to 2012, earlier in the week. He cited their contributions to the work of the Commission.
E. Confirmation of the recommendations from the October 2016 meeting after the loss of a quorum. Mr. Luebke said that a formal action is needed concerning three submissions reviewed the previous month without a quorum. He noted that the members present had made recommendations which were conveyed in letters sent to the applicants and distributed to the Commission. He listed the projects requiring action:
CFA 20/OCT/16-7, K Street medians at the Washington Circle underpass, K Street between 21st and 22nd Streets, NW. Public art installation by Catherine Widgery. Concept.
CFA 20/OCT/16-10, Edgewood Recreation Center, 301 Franklin Street, NE. Replacement recreation center building. Concept.
SL 17-006, 2200 P Street, NW, Embassy Gulf Service Station. Relocation and adaptive reuse of historic building, and a new 10-story mixed use building. Concept.
Mr. Luebke noted that a new submission for the Edgewood Recreation Center is on the agenda for review later in the day (agenda item II.E). Upon a motion by Mr. Powell, the Commission confirmed the October recommendations for these projects.
Mr. Luebke reported that Jose Martinez, a member of the Commission's staff for nearly thirty years, will be retiring at the end of December. He cited Mr. Martinez's tireless and cheerful work with Old Georgetown Act submissions.
II. Submissions and Reviews
Mr. Luebke introduced the three appendices for Commission action. Drafts of the appendices had been circulated to the Commission members in advance of the meeting.
Appendix I – Government Submissions Consent Calendar: Mr. Lindstrom said that no changes have been made to the draft appendix. Upon a motion by Ms. Meyer, the Commission approved the Government Submissions Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler reported several changes to the draft appendix. One project has been withdrawn by the applicant to allow for further work and a future resubmission (case number SL 17-019). Two favorable recommendations are subject to the anticipated receipt of further supplemental materials, and she requested authorization to finalize these recommendations when the materials are received (SL 16-178 and SL 17-020). Other changes are limited to minor wording adjustments. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the revised appendix.
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Ms. Stevenson reported that the only revision to the draft appendix is to note the receipt of supplemental materials for one case, conforming to the recommendations of the Commission's Old Georgetown Board. Upon a motion by Mr. Krieger with second by Ms. Meyer, the Commission approved the revised appendix.
At this point, the Commission departed from the order of the agenda to consider item II.C. Mr. Luebke said that the Commission may wish to act on this submission without a presentation, noting that it does not meet the requirements for inclusion on the Consent Calendar.
C. U.S. Department of Agriculture
CFA 17/NOV/16-4, U.S. National Arboretum, 3501 New York Avenue, NE. National China Garden, new classical Chinese garden. Final. (Previous: CFA 16/JUL/15-2.)
Chairman Powell commented that the final design submission is responsive to the Commission's comments from the previous review, and he recommended approval. Upon a second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission adopted this action. Ms. Meyer suggested that the Commission also convey its appreciation for the collaborative effort—involving the National China Garden Foundation as well as the Academy of Forestry of the People's Republic of China—in creating this impressive new addition to the Arboretum.
The Commission returned to the order of the agenda with item II.B.
B. National Park Service
1. CFA 17/NOV/16-1, President's Park Fence—White House Grounds. Pennsylvania Avenue and East and West Executive Avenues, NW. Perimeter fence improvements—Phase I. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 16/JUN/16-1.) Secretary Luebke introduced the revised concept proposal for replacement of the perimeter fence around the eighteen-acre White House grounds. He summarized the Commission's previous review in June 2016, which included the approval of the general concept and support for the alternative of pickets that are thicker and more widely spaced, as preferred by the project team. He noted the Commission's additional guidance on the design of the gates and the fence's smaller-scale elements, such as finials, as well as the request for a full-scale mockup of a segment of the fence. He said that the design has been developed in the subsequent months, resulting in the mockup that the Commission members inspected earlier in the day on the north side of the White House. He asked Peter May of the National Park Service to begin the presentation.
Mr. May acknowledged the importance of the mockup in the review process and expressed appreciation for the Commission's visit to the site. He introduced Thomas Dougherty of the U.S. Secret Service to continue the presentation.
Mr. Dougherty said that the current submission results from numerous consultation meetings with the staff in recent months, along with the close collaboration of the National Park Service. He noted several dimensions of the approved concept: a fence height of 13 feet 1 inch; pickets with a diameter of 2 inches; and a clear opening of 5.5 inches between pickets. The fence design also includes anti-climb and anti-blast features. He said that the design has been developed in response to the Commission's guidance in June 2016 and further security testing; additional blast tests have confirmed the need for the 2-inch diameter of pickets, the thicker of the two options that were presented in June, and the need for the additional anti-climb features has also been confirmed through recent testing. He noted that the existing fence has elements dating from the 19th and 20th centuries, and the proposed design is part of a multi-layer security system intended to defend the White House complex from more dynamic present-day threats that were not envisioned a century ago. He said that the current proposal meets the security goals of the Secret Service, and he also acknowledged the importance of aesthetics in designing a fence within this historic context.
Mr. Dougherty said that much of the recent design work has focused on details for the top of the fence, as well as on the gates; several options for these features have been developed. He expressed appreciation for the visit by Commission members and staff to inspect the requested mockup, which has also been viewed by some Congressional staff. He said that the mockup was displayed at a regional Secret Service facility as well as along the north edge of the White House grounds, which he said was beneficial in envisioning the scale and setting of the fence. He summarized the request for further feedback from the Commission to assist in moving forward with this high-priority project. He introduced Michael Mills of Mills & Schnoering Architects to present the design.
Mr. Mills summarized the project's twin goals of security and aesthetic appropriateness. He presented design details for the top of the fence, where the pickets would terminate in finials consisting of a sharp spear-point above a decorative sphere rising one foot above the fence's top rail. Two parallel rows of anti-climb spikes would also be located above the top rail, placed in front of and behind the centered alignment of the finials. In response to further guidance from the Secret Service following the Commission's June 2016 review, the spikes would be more closely spaced so that a potential fence-climber could not grasp the fence's top rail by placing fingers between the spikes. With the protection of the tighter array of spikes, the previously presented serrated edge at the back of spear-point and the sharp edge at the back of the sphere have been eliminated from the design. The spikes would have varying heights to deter grasping by climbers wearing protective gloves; he presented four alternative treatments—Options 1A, 1B, 1C, and 2—with different shapes for the spikes and different patterns for their varying height. (Option 1C had not been included in the submission booklets circulated to the Commission members in advance of the meeting.) He said that the preference of the National Park Service and Secret Service is Option 1B, which locates the taller spikes near the finials; the on-site mockup included Option 1A with the shorter spikes located near the finials, and Option 2 with triangular spikes and alternating heights.
Mr. Mills presented photographic simulations of the overall fence design on the north and south sides of the White House, comparing the proposal to photographs of the existing fence. He indicated the proposed replacement of the rough-laid stone base with a new granite base. He characterized the proposed fence as having a visually open character that actually provides better visibility for the White House than the existing fence.
Mr. Mills described the proposed treatment of the pedestrian and vehicular gates within the fence, beginning with an overview of the historical evolution of the gates as previously presented. The proposal is based on the existing design, while using taller piers in response to the new fence height. The existing light fixtures would be re-mounted on top of the taller piers. He presented three options for providing protection from unwanted vehicles at the vehicular gates: Option 1 would use a strong gate that could resist vehicular crashes; Option 2 would rely on retractable bollards located behind the gate; and Option 3 would use a wedge-shaped barrier located behind the gate. He said that the barriers in Options 2 and 3 could be treated more attractively than is typically seen, such as by painting them a dark color and eliminating the typical red stop sign. The gate in Option 1 would require heavy construction and a hydraulic mechanism for opening the gate, resulting in the need for a solid panel across the lower portion. In Options 2 and 3, the gate itself would not be providing the crash protection, and a more open metalwork design could be used for the entire gate, although the bollards or wedge barrier would be visible beyond. Options 2 and 3 would therefore allow for an adaptation of the existing decorative motifs such as the open arches seen in the gates along Pennsylvania Avenue; he also presented a simple treatment of vertical pickets, which would include additional short intermediate pickets in the lower portion, known as "dog bars," to reduce the width of openings near the base. He suggested using Option 1 for the less prominent gates along East and West Executive Avenues, while the Pennsylvania Avenue gates could be designed with Option 2 or 3 in order to allow for the more decorative treatment of the metalwork where the general public would see it. Mr. Mills said that the gates could be designed with a fixed top bar that would remain in place as the gates swing open; this would simplify the attachments for the pivots and hydraulic mechanisms that are used in opening and closing the gates. Alternatively, the gates could be designed without this fixed bar, resulting in an entirely clear opening. He presented comparative elevations of the gates in the closed position, illustrating the slight difference in appearance if a fixed top bar is used.
Mr. Mills presented details of the landscape plan for the northeast and southeast corners of the White House grounds, the locations of the greatest potential conflicts between existing mature trees and the proposed fence construction. He indicated the large trees that are most likely to be affected by the construction; protection measures would be taken for these trees, such as through special design of the fence's foundation. He indicated other large trees that would likely be less affected by the construction, although protection would be provided as needed; and smaller trees would either be transplanted or replaced. He noted that the conflict is particularly problematic for several large trees at the southeast corner of the grounds, and the methods for protecting these trees are still under discussion.
Mr. Mills concluded by presented photographs of the mockup, both at the Secret Service facility and at the White House, and he acknowledged the comments that have been provided during inspections of the mockup by the staff and the Commission members. Chairman Powell expressed the Commission's appreciation for the valuable opportunity to visit the mockup, and he invited comments on the proposal.
Mr. Krieger said that people will eventually not remember the existing fence and will only know the new fence, lessening any concerns about the comparative differences. Nonetheless, he expressed disappointment at the appearance of the mockup, which confirmed his previous concern that the two-inch-diameter pickets appear thick; he recalled his description of the mockup as "elephantine" during the Commission's inspection. He described the proposal as merely a gigantic version of the more elegant existing fence; the transformation in scale requires a change in design, which has not occurred with this proposal. He said that the intended aesthetic character of the proposed fence is therefore unclear. He supported Ms. Meyer's previous suggestion that the new fence not replicate the historic details, but instead use sophisticated modern details. He said that the proposed design lacks articulation; the treatment of the top is becoming slightly more modern, but the design of the base appears to be more classical, resulting in an aesthetic mixture that needs refinement. He offered the example of the fence's four-inch-square posts, which appeared to be simply thick pieces of steel in the mockup; they should instead be designed more carefully, such as with a joint or reveal. He acknowledged that the actual fence may have a better appearance than the mockup, which he described as very unsatisfactory. He reiterated his disappointment at the lack of refinement with the fence's increased scale, even if people a decade from now will not remember the comparison to the existing fence.
Mr. Krieger said that the drawings of the pedestrian gates serve to illustrate his concern with the fence's increased scale: the inclusion of multiple piers at their existing locations becomes problematic as the height of the piers is increased substantially, with the proportions of the openings becoming strangely narrow for walking through. He suggested reconsidering the treatment of the pedestrian gates with the new fence height, perhaps by reducing the number of piers or otherwise altering the design. He emphasized that the proportions of the pedestrian gates are different from the vehicular gates, which are much wider. He also criticized the thicker two-inch-diameter pickets as giving the fence a much darker, prison-like appearance when seen on-site at an angle, in contrast to the deceptively open appearance in the elevation drawings. He therefore rejected the claim that the proposed fence would have a more transparent appearance than the existing fence. He acknowledged that a resolution of this problem may not be possible because the thickness and spacing of the pickets has regrettably already been established, and he said that the problems with its appearance may lessen as the viewpoint moves further back from the fence. He summarized his frustration that modern technology has not provided a better solution than this proposal, which is essentially to enlarge the existing fence. He described the result as antiquated, failing to address such fundamental concerns as having things thrown at or over the fence.
Ms. Meyer emphasized the importance of the broader concerns raised in Mr. Krieger's comments, which she said were insufficiently recognized in the presented summary of the Commission's previous review. She recalled Mr. Dunson's comment that a key issue in the fence design is the balance between the perceptions of strength and freedom: the fence should not appear to be a defensive structure that derives from a position of fear. In addition to this issue of the fence's meaning, the issues of scale, character, and craft are also important; she said that all of these concerns need to be considered as the design is refined. She said that the scale seems reasonable based on viewing the on-site mockup, but the fence's character remains a concern, and the detailing is confused. She cited Mr. Krieger's comment at the uncertainty whether the fence design is contemporary or historic. She acknowledged that the flatness of the mockup would be somewhat more modeled in the actual fence construction, but the character is unclear. She suggested not using Victorian or neoclassical detailing for a fence that is twice the scale of traditional fences; she recommended developing the design of each of the fence elements in relation to a coherent overall character. Regarding the issue of craft, she observed that the joints between elements appear unresolved, such as where the metal fence meets the masonry piers, or where the base of the piers meets the base of the fence; she emphasized the importance of the design of these conditions. She summarized that the presented concept is not yet satisfactory for the design of the fence, although the expectation might be different in reviewing the concept for a building, and she requested an additional concept-level review before considering approval.
Mr. Krieger supported Ms. Meyer's comments and added several observations. He said that some parts of the proposed fence appear to be imitating their previous form but at a larger scale, while other parts appear to be using a different aesthetic. He cited the example of the masonry piers, which in the existing fence rise somewhat higher than the metal fence itself; in the proposed design, this relationship is simply enlarged, but the result appears simply big and senseless. He suggested reducing the height of the new piers, as long as they rise to the necessary height for the security perimeter. He said that this simplistic enlargement, without careful thought about the scale and details, is an overall problem of the design, and he encouraged a more clear choice about the fence's character. He added that the choice may be for a more traditional appearance, which necessitates accepting the elephantine character of the enlarged scale; alternatively, the choice may be for a different sensibility of detailing.
Mr. Mills responded that the design team has been studying many examples of fences from the U.S. and Europe, in order to understand the reasons for the design features. Mr. Krieger acknowledged the difficulty of this design project. Mr. Mills said that the design goal has been to strike a balance, and the appropriate balance may not yet have been found, but he feels that the design is moving closer to a good solution. He said that the on-site mockup supports the idea that the proposed fence would provide a better view of the White House than the existing fence, whether for people standing close to it or at a distance. He noted that the scale comparison with several European precedents was previously presented to the Commission; he did not include this in the current presentation because the issue had seemed settled.
Ms. Meyer and Mr. Krieger clarified that their concerns are with the fence's character and craft; Mr. Mills acknowledged that these could be improved. He added that the joint between the piers and the fence's masonry base is intended to follow historic precedents, which respond to the necessity for a sloped top on the base in order to shed water; although the Commission members have expressed dissatisfaction with this detail, it may remain the best solution. Ms. Gilbert noted the existing contrast of materials between the piers and the fieldstone base wall, which has the character of a garden wall, while the materials for the proposed base would be similar to the piers. Mr. Mills clarified confirmed that the base wall is currently intended to be granite with a limestone cap, and the piers would have a granite base and limestone shaft; the proposed treatment of the base is based on the comments that have been received. Ms. Gilbert said that several Commission members were commenting during the mockup inspection that the granite of the base wall should be rusticated instead of dressed, in order to provide a stronger shadow line and to be more reminiscent of the existing character of a beautiful garden edge. She said that specifying the same color of granite for the base wall and the base of the pier may be reasonable, instead of the existing contrast of stone colors, but the finishes should provide a variety of textures. Mr. Mills agreed to consider this revision.
Ms. Meyer said that aside from the selection of materials, the detail of the abutting blocks of stone remains unsatisfactory, appearing to merely jam together the materials, even though the top of the base wall's sloped cap would be aligned with the top edge of the pier's base. Mr. Mills reiterated that this detail is traditional and is seen on the existing fence, but Mr. Krieger noted that a traditional design would not use the same materials for the base wall and the piers, which is an important difference. Ms. Meyer agreed, observing that the existing base wall is a rough-laid stone; a different situation will result from the decision to change the base wall to the same materials as the piers, and the design detail where they abut needs to be resolved accordingly. Mr. Mills asked if the solution should be to have the granite of the base wall meet the granite base of the pier, and the wall's limestone cap meet the pier's limestone shaft; Ms. Meyer said that this decision depends on the vocabulary and design character of the fence, and the goal should be a good design for the entire project rather than to solve each problem separately. She reiterated the request for a further submission that describes the design of the fence and piers as part of an overall ensemble. Mr. Mills noted that the mockup was a simplified version of the intended design, prepared with limited time; the texture and detailing of the actual materials were not well represented, such as by using flat cut-outs of sheet metal for the spear-points.
Mr. Dunson said that this discussion serves to address some of the issues that have been raised: the Commission members are concerned about the adequacy of the details, which Mr. Mills said were not fully conveyed in the mockup. Mr. Dunson emphasized that a more refined consideration of the details is necessary to avoid the appearance of simply enlarging the previous fence. He agreed with Mr. Mills' description of the mockup as just a "cartoon" of the proposal, and he encouraged the normal process of articulating the details, commensurate with the fence's new scale, in order to achieve the final design for construction. He observed that the Commission has already accepted the security needs and the resulting scale of the fence, and the discussion now is focused on detailing.
Mr. Dunson added that the historic preservation process typically includes consideration of returning to the historic condition if future circumstances allow, such as when a street is closed to allow construction of a large building that may someday be demolished. Accordingly, he suggested that the existing fence be stored or installed elsewhere, so that it could be returned to the White House grounds if future security needs are different. He said that this fence project should be understood as part of the larger context of the White House, extending from the Ellipse on the south to Lafayette Square and H Street on the north. He observed that when Pennsylvania Avenue on the north side of the White House was closed to traffic—a change that was opposed by many—the result was to see this area as a broader expanse of space; this increased sense of spatial scale is commensurate with the proposed increase in height for the fence. He suggested understanding the new fence within the White House's broader and evolving context, rather than only focusing on the fence's relation to the scale of a person standing next to it.
Mr. Dunson summarized that he feels increasingly comfortable with the proposed scale of the fence within the context. He said that viewpoints on historic preservation issues can vary, but change is permissible even within a historic context; the issue now is how to resolve the design challenges for this project. He expressed confidence that further detailing and articulation would result in a design that is appropriate for meeting modern needs within the setting. He added that the design team appears to share the goal of creating a good project in this special place. Mr. Mills agreed, emphasizing that his goal is to create something of beauty, notwithstanding the mixed reaction to the proposal, and he emphasized his interest in receiving the Commission's advice and exploring any suggestions for improving the design.
Mr. Krieger said that opinions could reasonably vary on whether the new fence will provide an improved overall experience for visitors, but nonetheless some people will see the fence at a very close distance, and the design details should therefore be considered further. He emphasized that the Commission is not giving an infeasible recommendation to drastically lower the proposed height, even though the proposed scale is regrettable; the guidance is instead to refine the design of the taller fence to be a more positive contribution.
Ms. Gilbert described a further example of problems with the proposal's character and detailing. She observed that the proposed base wall appears to be of the same design language as the adjacent sidewalk along the north side of the White House, while the existing base wall is more clearly distinct as a garden edge to the White House lawn that belongs to the public. She recommended a design for the base wall that maintains a distinction between the sidewalk and the garden edge, although not necessarily using the existing historicist fieldstone vocabulary; the contrast could be in a rougher treatment of materials or finish. The overall character of the project should therefore be a garden edge with a large fence on top, rather than a fence rising from a continuation of the sidewalk. Mr. Dunson agreed, noting that the differing characters are clearly illustrated in the comparative images in the project booklet. Mr. Mills responded that the proposal to use granite for the base wall, similar to the existing sidewalk paving, was the result of past consultations; he asked if the Commission's advice is to choose a different material. Ms. Meyer and Ms. Gilbert said that the solution may be to use a different finish; Mr. Krieger added that granite of a different color could be used. Mr. Luebke said that past discussions have included the possibility of a rougher texture for the granite of the base wall, such as a cleft-face or bush-hammered finish.
Chairman Powell summarized the Commission's acceptance of the proposed scale while providing a range of comments on the concept design. He expressed confidence that the project team could successfully address the comments in developing a final design submission. He agreed with the concerns about detailing, and he described the proposal as having a thin or weak appearance. He encouraged preparation of another mockup to show the proposed resolution of the detailing issues. He added that the proposal has improved greatly over the course of the review process.
Mr. Luebke requested the Commission's response to the specific design alternatives that were presented. For the gates, Mr. Krieger offered support for Option 1, observing that this alternative's solid panel for the lower portion of the gates would be preferable to the cluttered appearance of seeing smaller barrier elements beyond the gates; he noted that any visual elements associated with the gates would be in addition to the adjacent guardhouses. Ms. Gilbert and Mr. Powell agreed in supporting Option 1. Mr. Luebke said that the presented elevation drawings may not fully convey the bulkiness of the gates in Option 1: the metal enclosure for mechanical systems behind the solid panel would extend for a depth of ten inches. Mr. Krieger and Mr. Powell acknowledged this bulkiness and confirmed their preference for Option 1; they reiterated the advantage in this option of not seeing additional barrier elements beyond the gate. Mr. May noted that the separate vehicular barriers in Options 2 and 3 would not require the bright markings and safety features that are typically associated with such barriers; Ms. Meyer and Mr. Krieger said that the visual presence of separate barriers, along with any related features that could not be omitted, would still be less desirable than Option 1.
Ms. Meyer observed that all of the gates in this submission are located within a wider security perimeter around the White House precinct; she asked why these gates require crash protection, aside from any near-term issues of phasing until the wider perimeter is redesigned in later phases of the larger project. Mr. Dougherty responded that the fence and gates in this proposal would be an inner line of security that would delay an attack, providing additional time for a security response. He added that the implementation of the project's later phases is uncertain, and the current goal is to provide an effective security barrier around the eighteen-acre White House grounds. John Stann of the U.S. Secret Service noted that the areas outside and inside the proposed fence have different levels of security, requiring the crash-resistant separation between them.
Ms. Meyer noted the concern that was raised about the number of piers appearing to be excessive with the fence's increased height. She observed that the presented drawings do not depict the entire layout of piers along the fence; they are illustrated only in small groupings at the gates. She requested further drawings, such as an elevation along the Pennsylvania Avenue frontage, to assist in the review of the overall design. She expressed concern that in this area north of the White House, the piers for this fence project would be seen in conjunction with the piers for a later phase of the precinct's outer perimeter, and the combined appearance would be excessive. Mr. May responded that the current proposal includes five piers at each end of the Pennsylvania Avenue frontage, and he acknowledged the discussion of possibly reducing this number. Ms. Meyer asked about the expected number, size, and appearance of nearby piers in later phases of the project. Mr. May said that the existing design vocabulary for the fences is different at the Treasury and Eisenhower Executive Office Building, and the future treatment of those fences—including the height—has not yet been established. Acknowledging the uncertainty of the future context, Mr. Krieger reiterated the suggestion to consider reducing the number of piers in the current phase; Mr. May said that this will be studied carefully. Ms. Lehrer said that master planning would be appropriate for this project in order to establish in advance some of the design issues, such as a sense of hierarchy for the precinct. She asked if the fence around the eighteen-acre White House grounds would be taller than the fences around the adjacent buildings, and she encouraged an illustration of this relationship in a simple elevation drawing. She added that such drawings would be helpful to the project team in future design work. Mr. May responded that the design solutions at the adjacent buildings may differ because of their sunken plazas, and current speculation on these future designs is difficult. He acknowledged that resolving all of these questions at once would be valuable, but he emphasized the urgency and design challenges in addressing just the eighteen-acre White House grounds. He said that the project team understands the broader issues of the multiple phases and will address them in the future.
Mr. May noted the Commission's request for another full-scale mockup of a substantial portion of the fence, which he said may not be feasible; he asked if a mockup of a smaller portion, or perhaps three-dimensional computer modeling, would be acceptable to the Commission. Chairman Powell supported these alternatives; Ms. Meyer said that axonometric drawings may be sufficient, and Mr. Krieger suggested providing more detailed drawings.
Chairman Powell said that the comments would be summarized in a letter, and he emphasized the Commission's focus on developing the project details. He added that during his inspection of the mockup, the question arose of alternative rustication treatments for the piers, and whether the top course of the piers could be reduced in height to lessen the overall scale; he acknowledged that the piers may contain some security-related technology that must be accommodated. Mr. May agreed that the piers appear overly tall, and he offered to study this issue further. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
2. CFA 17/NOV/16-2, World War II Memorial, West Potomac Park at 17th Street. Install plaque with President Franklin D. Roosevelt's D-Day prayer. Concept. (Previous: CFA 15/OCT/15-1, site selection.) Secretary Luebke introduced the concept alternatives for a Franklin D. Roosevelt D-Day Prayer Plaque at the World War II Memorial, located on the Mall in West Potomac Park. The proposal is submitted by the National Park Service and was prepared with the support of an outside organization, the Friends of the National World War II Memorial. He said that in October 2015, the Commission had evaluated a site selection study for the location of the plaque, approving a site at the entrance of an area of the World War II Memorial known as the Circle of Remembrance; however, the Commission members had commented that the addition of a large tablet may conflict with the Circle's purpose as an area of quiet contemplation. He said that two options would be presented for the plaque's specific location; both would require changes to elements of the Circle, including paving, plantings, and benches. He asked Peter May to begin the presentation.
Mr. May said that the project team has been exploring how the plaque would work within the context of the Circle of Remembrance and the overall World War II Memorial. He introduced landscape architect Sheila Brady of Oehme, van Sweden & Associates to present the proposal.
Ms. Brady noted that the plaque itself has not yet been designed; its design criteria will include legibility, reading comfort, and establishing a visual connection with the World War II Memorial. She said that the Commission is not being asked to approve these preliminary studies but only to comment on the specific locations. In Alternative I, the plaque would be placed immediately outside the entrance to the Circle of Remembrance; in Alternative II, the plaque would be located within its circumference. She said that both of the proposed locations would present an opportunity for the design of the circle to be better integrated with the World War II Memorial. In either location, the installation would include a series of bronze tablets on a granite base. She described the characteristics of the existing Circle of Remembrance—a paved area reached from an approach walk curving off a main pedestrian walk, and surrounded by a low rusticated stone wall, within which a continuous series of wood and cast-iron benches forms approximately two-thirds of a circle. Most of the paving is a concrete aggregate, and a ring of granite pavers surrounds a central planting bed; site furnishings include a trash can and light posts.
Ms. Brady said that in Alternative I, the bronze panels and granite base would be placed just outside the entrance to the circle along the edge of the approach path, with a low, horizontal configuration that would be relatively small but large enough for the text to be easily read. The circle's benches and paving would be rebuilt in granite, and new plantings would include understory trees, such as Amelanchier (serviceberry) or a similar type, to form a light vegetative screen between the plaque and the memorial to the south and Constitution Gardens to the north. The existing pedestrian circulation pattern would not be changed. She noted that placing the plaque at this location would allow people reading the prayer to look up and view the memorial before turning to enter the circle. She said that the design team prefers this option because of its low configuration and its quieter, slightly separate location.
Ms. Brady presented Alternative II, which locates the plaque and base in a narrower configuration within the circumference of the Circle of Remembrance to further define this area's circular form. At this location, the plaque would include three taller, vertically oriented bronze panels. She said that this slightly taller configuration may improve legibility: it could be as easily read by a person in a wheelchair as by a person who is standing. As in Alternative I, the paving and benches would be rebuilt in granite; in Alternative II, the plaque installation and benches would have the same height of three feet.
Ms. Brady noted a concern that the color of the granite, currently proposed to be the same as used throughout the existing memorial, would be too bright. She said the proposed new trees may lessen this effect, but the selection of a darker granite may be necessary.
Ms. Brady presented boards with full-size drawings of the plaques in the different configurations for each alternative. She said that the plaques would use the same font as the existing inscriptions on the World War II Memorial, and they would similarly be entirely in capital letters. She concluded by noting the Commission's comment from the previous review that the character of the Circle should remain quiet and reflective.
Ms. Gilbert observed that the basic issue is whether the plaque should respect the continuity of the circle. She asked if the project team had considered a variation of Alternative I that would place the plaque within the existing planting; Ms. Brady responded that this would be explored further after a location is approved. Mr. Krieger asked if the character of separation in Alternative I is intended to provide a different visitor experience at the plaque than within the circle; Ms. Brady responded that this alternative was developed in response to the Commission's previous comment that the prayer plaque should not dominate the circle.
Ms. Lehrer asked why the plaque would be made of bronze panels mounted on stone rather than treated as a freestanding tablet, observing that a low plaque at the location proposed in Alternative I might be hard to find. Ms. Brady said that the National Park Service had specified bronze for durability, and the Friends of the World War II Memorial had requested that the Circle of Remembrance use the same materials as the rest of the memorial. Ms. Meyer commented that the use of the same materials will effectively establish a relationship between the circle and the larger World War II Memorial, which will encourage appropriate behavior by signaling that the circle is part of the memorial and not a feature of Constitution Gardens. She recommended maintaining the more intimate scale of the circle as the proposal is further developed instead of replicating the larger details of the memorial. She expressed a preference for Alternative II, emphasizing the desirability of locating the plaque within the circumference of the Circle of Remembrance to avoid any spatial ambiguity. Mr. Krieger agreed, adding that the location proposed in Alternative I would suggest that the plaque is a later addition.
Ms. Brady noted that several design issues were identified in three earlier studies of incorporating the plaque within the edge of the circle. She said that Alternative II might be too tall and dominant, enclosing the circle and obscuring the legibility of its character. The concerns about asymmetry and dominance resulted in the development of Alternative I, in which the plaque is only slightly separated from the circle. Mr. Krieger observed that the taller alternative previously reviewed had appeared to dominate because it had been treated as a continuation of the circle's boundary wall; however, he said that the current presentation for Alternative II includes substantial breaks in the wall on each side of the plaque, mitigating this concern. Ms. Meyer agreed; Ms. Gilbert added that the planting bed behind the plaque and base in Alternative II would also differentiate this installation from the remainder of the circle's outer wall.
Ms. Meyer commented that Alternative II is a good compromise solution because it would include the prayer plaque within the geometry of the circle, while the flanking entrance walks would keep the plaque somewhat removed—it would be both separate and connected. Mr. Krieger added that this condition would be reinforced by a bed of low plantings instead of trees as the landscape background.
Ms. Lehrer suggested careful consideration of the space's character; she observed that the introduction of a continuous bench, as illustrated in the presentation, might appear predictable and institutional, conflicting with the circle's contemplative nature. She recommended designing the bench as two or three separate segments to emphasize that the circle is a different kind of space than the memorial; Ms. Gilbert supported this idea. Ms. Lehrer said that simply creating breaks between elements to interrupt the circle's continuity might be enough to create a sense of surprise and to direct a visitor's attention to the plaque.
Mr. Krieger commented that if the plaque installation is located within the circumference of the circle, it could have a different height than the boundary wall. While supporting the location of Alternative II, he said that it is too prominent as illustrated. Ms. Gilbert suggested reducing the axiality of the plaque location in Alternative II by using different widths for the pedestrian entrance openings at each side of the plaque in order to shift the balance; Ms. Meyer observed that the illustrated openings are very wide. Ms. Brady responded that she agrees that an asymmetrical design is appropriate, but some have advised that the circle should be symmetrical to be consistent with the character of the central part of the World War II Memorial. Ms. Meyer called this a fallacious argument, commenting that the design for the circle's entrance openings should reflect a differentiation between a walk leading to the World War II Memorial, which is on the center axis of the Mall, and a walk leading to Constitution Gardens, which is not. She said that the circle has its own geometry and balance, and the large entrance openings would weaken its spatial definition; she therefore suggested narrowing the northeastern entrance opening. She supported Ms. Lehrer's recommendation to design the bench in several smaller segments, and she suggested conceiving of the plaque installation as comprising one of several arc segments that together create the circle; she said that the success of this design approach would require reducing the width of at least one of the entrances.
Mr. Krieger objected to creating additional gaps in the circle's definition; he suggested instead emphasizing the joints between benches or otherwise articulating their forms, and further studying the height of the plaque wall. Ms. Lehrer commented that the granite of the plaque installation could be higher than the circle's enclosure wall, rather than lower, and she suggested treating the bench as a sculptural object; Ms. Meyer added that it could be designed without a back. Mr. Krieger and Ms. Lehrer supported the further study of a simple design for the bench.
Mr. May noted that the Commission has provided clear support for the location recommended in Alternative II. He said that the project team would proceed to more detailed study of the treatment of the stone backing as well as of the plaque. He added that other design issues, such as barrier-free accessibility, will also require further study.
Chairman Powell summarized the consensus to support Alternative II, subject to the comments provided. Mr. Luebke noted that many secondary design issues remain to be resolved, and the appropriate action may be a general approval of the concept of this location alternative. Ms. Meyer added that the siting should be considered as carefully as design. Upon a second by Ms. Lehrer, the Commission adopted this action.
3. CFA 17/NOV/16-3, Rock Creek Park/Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway. New pedestrian bridge over Rock Creek. Final. (Previous: CFA 20/OCT/16-2.) Ms. Batcheler introduced the proposed final design for a new pedestrian bridge over Rock Creek and associated trail improvements adjacent to the south end of the Zoo Tunnel, submitted by the National Park Service on behalf of the D.C. Department of Transportation. She noted that in October 2016, the Commission had reviewed and approved a concept design for the project, including the landscape, bridge railings, and lighting. She asked Peter May of the National Park Service to begin the presentation; he introduced engineer Steve Zeender of Stantec to present the proposal.
Mr. Zeender summarized the Commission's comments from the October presentation: maintain the site's woodland character; focus on the area around the tunnel portal; improve the sightlines; reduce the amount of lighting for the pedestrian bridge; and develop the cable rail alternative for the bridge. In the current design, the bridge would remain essentially as previously proposed; the revisions are primarily at the nearby convergence of the recreation paths and the tunnel portal. The proposal is now to extend the existing wall alongside the portal; to treat the landscape more naturalistically, with native plant species instead of cultivars; and to use boulders in place of the previous proposal for a terraced retaining wall. He emphasized the difficulty for people on the trail to see others, especially bicyclists, who are emerging from the tunnel; the proposed design would improve the sight distance by reducing the amount of vegetation and by extending the existing wall to allow for a better grading configuration. The proposed wall extension would be set slightly back to distinguish it from the existing wall.
Mr. Zeender described the further study of the proposed creek bank stabilization. He said that planting more trees and larger vegetation on top of the bank could result in an unstable condition; he noted that an illustration of a similar improvement downstream from the project site included in the previous presentation was misleading. He presented a revised rendering to illustrate how the site would appear after approximately three years, when plantings will have softened its appearance.
Ms. Gilbert questioned the depiction of boulders near the tunnel portal, suggesting instead that the edge of the path should be better defined. She supported the proposal for signage to alert cyclists and pedestrians, while observing that the sightlines do not appear noticeably better in the current design than in the prior version. Mr. Zeender responded that lessening the steep grade would significantly improve the sightline, and reducing the vegetation would probably have the most effect, but the design team has tried to find a balance between improving the sightlines and avoiding the creation of a barren grassy space. Ms. Gilbert commented that people would likely walk or ride through the plantings, and she reiterated that the design needs an edge for the path, such as a single low rustic wall. She added that planting trees of a medium height, with a higher branching than the proposed shrubs, would allow better visibility.
Landscape architect Kathleen Dahill of Stantec responded that the perspective drawing does not accurately represent the proposed landscape. She said that the intent is to mimic the treatment at another entrance to the National Zoo, which uses rock outcrops. In this site, the boulders would hold back the grade, replacing the previously proposed retaining wall. She added that the boulders would be would be naturalistically dispersed; ferns and trees would be planted instead of shrubs. Ms. Meyer asked whether any rendering in this presentation depicts the actual proposal; Ms. Dahill indicated a plan drawing of the proposed landscape. She said that the rendering does not clearly show how the grade would rise from the edge of the existing walk, and pedestrians and cyclists would have difficulty cutting across this area, but she agreed that the edge of the walk could be emphasized with a low wall. Ms. Gilbert said that the treatment would need to be in character with the Rock Creek valley, and she asked where the boulders would come from; Mr. Zeender replied that they would probably be salvaged from other areas of the park.
Secretary Luebke asked for clarification of the need for the proposed wall extension and its materials, noting that it could appear to be a strange addition to an existing element. Mr. Zeender responded that matching the appearance of the existing wall would be difficult, resulting in the proposal to set back the new extension. He said that the grade wraps around the existing wall, touching down at the trail; to reduce the grade enough to improve the sightlines, the wall would have to be extended. He noted the complication that the footing for the existing wall rises with the grade; the proposed new grading for this area would therefore require modification of the footing. Mr. Krieger asked about the footing for the proposed new wall; Mr. Zeender said that the footing would be necessary and would rise with the grade. Mr. Luebke suggested that the addition of a low edge wall and a more open treatment of the vegetation might solve the problem of visibility; Ms. Lehrer added that the proposed wall extension would therefore not be necessary. She said that the desired grade change should be achievable with an installation of boulders using a naturalistic composition, perhaps with the addition of a curb and possibly necessitating removal of the large existing tree in this area. She added that the project team is presenting the wall extension without knowing if the additional foundation would even be feasible; Mr. Zeender acknowledged that the feasibility of the footing extension would not be known until test excavations have been carried out. He said that another alternative would be to reduce the grade to a point just above the top of the existing footer.
Ms. Meyer said that the presentation drawings fail to explain the project or allow the Commission members to understand the options and offer good recommendations; she questioned whether drawings of the alternatives have even been produced. She said that this project can only be designed in multiple sections cut through the entire slope; the presented plans do not depict topography or spot elevations, and the cartoonish drawings produced with graphics software fail to present the proposed planting strategy. She said that she does not support the extension of the tall retaining wall, calling it an excessive solution to a problem that could be solved by a creative landscape architect. She summarized that several good solutions are available that would avoid conflict with the existing footings. Mr. Krieger added that if a wall extension were necessary, it would not need to be this tall; Ms. Meyer agreed, and said that this condition would be clear with section drawings of the existing conditions and the proposed design.
Mr. Dunson asked for clarification of the extent of the proposed paving, and the possible location of a low wall; he asked if such a wall would allow a person to see across this small rise in grade. Ms. Meyer acknowledged that the grade would have to be changed, but the Commission members agreed that less intervention would be better.
Mr. Luebke suggested that the Commission staff meet further with the design team to develop a solution that would allow for clear sightlines with the least impact. Noting the Commission's apparent support for the proposed bridge treatment, he suggested that a revised final submission for this project could be placed on the consent calendar if the remaining issues are resolved. Ms. Gilbert asked how timber fences in Rock Creek typically meet bridge handrails. Mr. Zeender responded that this detail remains to be worked out; Ms. Gilbert said that the Commission should see this proposed detail. Ms. Meyer noted that the staff does not include a landscape architect, and she suggested that the next submission be presented to the Commission. Mr. Luebke said that a revised submission for both railings and landscape, if satisfactory to the staff, could be placed on the consent calendar, and the Commission could choose to remove it for a full presentation and discussion; he noted that the project would not be placed on the consent calendar if the staff concludes that it does not address the Commission's concerns. The Commission members agreed with this approach. Mr. May noted that the National Park Service would prefer to have a solution without a large retaining wall.
Ms. Meyer cited the photographic simulation of the proposed bridge abutment and commented that this element is beautifully designed; she said that the Commission expects the same sensitivity to be applied to the landscape design. The Commission adopted a motion for approval of the final design submission conditional on approval of a further submission for the railings and the landscape design.
C. U.S. Department of Agriculture
CFA 17/NOV/16-4, U.S. National Arboretum, 3501 New York Avenue, NE. National China Garden, new classical Chinese garden. Final. (Previous: CFA 16/JUL/15-2.) The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
D. Smithsonian Institution
CFA 17/NOV/16-5, National Museum of Natural History, 10th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW. Access ramps at south entrance (Madison Drive). Revised concept—guardrail design. (Previous: CFA 20/OCT/16-3.) Ms. Batcheler introduced the revised concept design for a symmetrical pair of barrier-free ramps at the south entrance of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History. She said that in preparation for the future final design submission, the project team is seeking clarification of the Commission's advice on the design of the guardrails given during the previous review. She asked Ann Trowbridge of the Smithsonian Institution to begin the presentation.
Ms. Trowbridge noted that the design itself has not changed substantially since the October presentation, but a different fabrication method is now being considered for the guardrails. She introduced architect Alyson Steele of Quinn Evans Architects and landscape architect Claire Bedat of AECOM to present the design.
Ms. Steele summarized the design context for the guardrails. The stone base of each ramp would be a low garden wall providing perimeter security for the museum, and the stone base would be screened by plantings. Landings at the ramp switchbacks would provide a gathering space and resting area. Metal handrails with an LED light strip for nighttime illumination would line each ramp for its entirety, creating a continuous line along the ramps. The guardrails would be located along the upper ramps, between the proposed landings and the museum's existing entry portico; these guardrails would be composed of sculpted metal panels depicting grass, intended to relate conceptually to the museum's focus on natural history. She described the design of these panels as balancing light with shadow, opacity with transparency, and restraint with a more engaging character to enhance the pedestrian experience.
Ms. Bedat said that the current intention is to fabricate the figurative grass panels as cast metal. She provided a sample of the proposed material: a white brass alloy of copper, zinc, and other metals called "Tombasil." She said that this material can be cast in various forms, which would allow for a foliage-like pattern with more depth and shadow than could be achieved with the punched fabrication method that was previously proposed. A typical panel would be seven feet wide by three feet tall; the guardrail would be assembled from individual panels without visible segmental breaks, creating a ribbon-like appearance with a dense lower band and more open upper band. The spacing between each figurative grass blade would generally be 1.75 inches, and this could be increased to as much as 4 inches if more transparency or a lighter appearance is desired; increasing this spacing would also reduce the cost of each panel.
Chairman Powell asked for clarification of the approval status of the project. Secretary Luebke responded that the Commission had approved a revised concept submission in October 2016, but some Commission members had raised concerns about the proposed character and fabrication method for the guardrail. He said that the current review provides an opportunity for the Commission to provide further guidance.
Mr. Krieger commented favorably on the creativity and potential beauty of the design, emphasizing that a more three-dimensional profile would be preferable to the previous, flatter design. He continued to question why most of the grass blades are limited to a single plane, even though the blades that support the continuous handrail would be fabricated to curve outward beyond the vertical plane. He requested the opportunity for the Commission to review a mockup of the grass panel guardrail. Ms. Bedat responded that casting the panels would make them more sculptural and three-dimensional; each sculpted grass blade would become thinner as it rises from the base. Mr. Krieger expressed tentative support for this fabrication method, suggesting that it might produce a better design than the previously proposed method.
Ms. Gilbert said that the grass motif may be more compelling if it were applied to discrete areas such as the landings; she asked if consideration was given to using a second, simpler guardrail system to complement the figurative panels. Ms. Bedat responded that the grass panels are already proposed for only a limited area, and she considers this proposal preferable to a more complicated design. Ms. Gilbert asked how many different forms would be used to create the railing; Ms. Bedat responded that five forms would be made, including one corner piece and several for the curving panels at the landings.
Ms. Lehrer expressed concern that the proposed naturalistic grass pattern may appear unsophisticated if not carefully designed and fabricated; she recommended avoiding a direct replication of natural forms using metal. While expressing appreciation for the non-repetitive and varied composition of the grass pattern, she suggested more openness near the bottom and more variation in the top portions of the blades, as well as eliminating some of the blades to give a more dynamic effect. She also questioned the inclusion of a top rail, which she described as a conventional element in an otherwise unique design with non-orthogonal pickets. She agreed with Mr. Krieger regarding the importance of ensuring sufficient three-dimensionality of the grass pattern, as well as the need for a mockup of the design. She expressed support for the proposed LED lighting scheme; Mr. Krieger agreed. Ms. Bedat responded that the top rail is a structural requirement of the railing assembly, but its size could be reduced.
Mr. Krieger expressed support for the level of abstraction of the proposed grass pattern. He suggested decreasing the number of blades on each panel, while increasing the planar depth of the remaining blades. Observing the different and somewhat pleasing appearance of the guardrails in the nighttime perspective drawing, he suggested employing the grass motif only on the long runs of the ramps, with an alternative railing system at the landings. Ms. Gilbert agreed, reiterating that using the grass motif in fewer places would be a more elegant solution. She also recommended that some grass blades terminate before reaching the top rail. Ms. Lehrer commented that the design could become too complicated if the grass panels were used only in some segments; she suggested instead that the rhythm of the pattern could change, perhaps becoming thinner or denser along its course. Ms. Bedat noted that the proposal includes some plantings at the switchback landings, and she said that the design team would create a mockup and study these suggestions.
Ms. Meyer expressed appreciation for the refinement of the design from the first submission, as well as support for the figurative grass panel concept and its connection to the program of the museum. She suggested that the density and depth of the grass blades could be varied among the five types of panels being cast, without needing to develop additional variations of panels. She cited Benjamin Latrobe's column capitals at the U.S. Capitol using corn and tobacco motifs, which she said might not have been approved in a modern-day design review process.
Mr. Krieger asked if the Commission could defer approval of the new proposal until the review of a mockup. Mr. Luebke noted that the Commission has already approved the concept design, and he suggested that any request for an alternative to the grass motif should occur now, prior to preparation of a final design submission. Mr. Krieger responded that several reviews are often needed to assess a concept fully, and he reiterated that the proposed design is interesting. Mr. Luebke summarized that the Commission members have provided numerous comments and have requested review of a guardrail mockup. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
E. District of Columbia Department of General Services
CFA 17/NOV/16-6, Edgewood Recreation Center, 301 Franklin Street, NE. Replacement recreation center building. Concept. (Previous: CFA 20/OCT/16-10.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced architect Jon Guldenzopf of Moody Nolan and landscape architect Holt Jordan of Jordan Honeyman Landscape Architecture to present the revised concept proposal for the Edgewood Recreation Center.
Mr. Guldenzopf summarized the previously presented context for the recreation center, which would be situated in an existing park that is characterized by its steep grades. The landscape would be organized around hubs of activity. Many of the park's existing features would remain, including basketball and tennis courts and a large athletic field, limiting the amount of land area available for development of the new building and landscape. He described the site's 25-foot rise from south to north: from the southern entrance to the site, the grade ascends 13 to 14 feet to a midpoint between the site's upper and lower areas, then rises another 10 feet to the site's northern entrance on Franklin Street.
Mr. Jordan presented the proposed landscape, noting that the existing primary entrances into the site would remain. The playground would be enlarged on its current location, and a fitness trail would be built around the existing athletic field. He indicated the location of a prominent shade tree at the north end of the site, which would remain; approximately 11 other shade trees and 7 flowering trees would be removed for construction, and 44 new shade trees and 40 new flowering trees would be planted. He said that most of the proposed plantings would be native species; the non-native plantings are adaptable to this region and would include London plane tree, crape myrtle, and cryptomeria, to be planted as screening. Community gardens would be located behind the new building; the building's accessible rooftop is intended for a vegetable garden that would be maintained by the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation. A generator, along with a cistern for harvesting water from the roof garden, would be located north of the building.
Mr. Jordan described additional features of the site design. Barrier-free access would be provided across the entire site. The central organizing feature is a north-south path that would accommodate the grade changes and avoid the need for extensive ramps. This path is designed as a stylized representation of the tributary to Tiber Creek that formerly ran through the site; its curving, flowing pattern would be created through the use of concrete paving in varied textures. Beyond its symbolism, the path would serve as a navigational element for visitors. Ramps for barrier-free access would lead between a central plaza and the basketball courts. A circular plaza would serve as the central landscape element of the northern portion of the site and would also function as a splash park. A four- to five-foot grade change just west of this plaza and adjoining the athletic field would be treated as a widened path intersection, allowing enough space for this area to act as an additional gathering place; both of these areas would be planted with trees. Another plaza at the site's southern entrance would be able to accommodate a small farmer's market. On the south side of the recreation center, trees and some shaping of the topography would help to screen the large scale of the gymnasium. He noted a previous comment that the earlier design concentrated too much activity at the north; in response, some elements have been redistributed to avoid crowding. Bioretention areas, planted with tough, fast-growing perennials, would be dispersed throughout the landscape.
Mr. Guldenzopf presented a small model and sections to illustrate how the proposed grading would work with the site circulation. The landscape design emphasizes the dramatic view to the south in order to draw people in from this direction, while many of the recreational areas to the north are intended to tie the park closely to its neighborhood. He briefly described the proposed building design, which was presented at greater length in the previous review. The building is designed as a large linear box; volumes would be shifted to either side to emphasize views toward different parts of the site, primarily to the west and south. Circulation would be located within a central vertical core that would project above the roof level, forming a tower that could be lit up at night to draw attention to the south-facing entrance beneath. To the rear, the large box of the gymnasium would be set partially within the hillside to allow direct access to the roof garden from the elevated northern portion of the site. Mechanical rooms would also be set back into the slope. He added that the gym roof would be equipped with supports to accommodate the future installation of photovoltaic panels.
Mr. Guldenzopf presented samples of the proposed materials in different color choices. Metal panels for the first floor are required by the client and are proposed to be light gray with an inset of a darker charcoal color. For the gymnasium volume, textured cementitious panels are proposed with a vertical configuration resembling wood planks. Anodized aluminum framing is proposed for the glazed storefront system and for the curtainwall on the south facade of the second-floor fitness center.
Ms. Gilbert asked how a visitor would move from the central plaza to the urban farm. Mr. Guldenzopf indicated a ramp leading north between the tennis and basketball courts to a steep switchback onto another ramp that rises to the south to the level of the picnic area and community gardens; from here, visitors could walk onto the roof or ascend another ramp up to the basketball courts. He indicated the stairways at some site locations, while noting that the more direct routes would not offer barrier-free access due to the sloping grade.
Mr. Krieger expressed concern about the character of the proposed plaza and splash park, commenting that the number of long, high walls suggest that this would be an awkward, dark space to inhabit. He also observed that many areas of the roof might be visible from the upper portions of the site, and he asked if it could be designed as a green roof. Mr. Guldenzopf responded that a green roof was considered, but the projected depth, weight, and cost were prohibitive, particularly for the long-span areas; he added that the proposed photovoltaic panels could improve the roof's appearance.
Mr. Krieger questioned the brown color proposed for the cementitious panels on the gymnasium facades; he commented that even though this volume would be pushed back into the slope, some walls would nonetheless be high, and the large panels would not have the same character as brick. Mr. Guldenzopf responded that the decision is still pending whether to use these panels or a dark brick; the client wants the dark brown color, and the design team has tried to choose a shade that would suggest the earth, blend with the garden, and coordinate with the red panels proposed for the exterior facades of the volume above the front entrance. He added that the preferred variety of panel has a limited range of color choices, and brown has been selected because of its resemblance to wooden planks. Mr. Krieger emphasized that the siding proposed for the gymnasium would be in large, flat panels and would create a different effect than small modular bricks; he suggested selecting a lighter color for the cementitious panels. Mr. Guldenzopf clarified that the proposed panels would have the dimensions of wooden planks, approximately six inches wide by six feet tall.
Ms. Gilbert commented that this presentation was much clearer than the previous presentation, and she expressed appreciation for the inclusion of a model and section drawings. She said that on a recent visit to the site she had been impressed by the number of children there and believes this recreation center and its landscape will be a great neighborhood amenity. She observed that the most impressive panoramic views are seen from beneath the dozen or so trees slated for removal, and she emphasized the importance of enhancing this experience. Acknowledging the challenge presented by the site's topography, she asked how the design could ensure that visitors would not end up being enclosed between walls, unable to see the outward views. She commented that the presentation had not clarified the different heights and configurations of the proposed walls. She described the walls surrounding the splash pad as reminiscent of a fortification, and appearing not to relate to the organic language proposed for the circulation; she recommended that the intended character of openness and fluidity be extended throughout the design. Regarding the community gardens, she commented that this small, shaded area behind the building would be a poor place for gardening; she advised moving the gardens west to the quieter space of the picnic area.
Mr. Guldenzopf responded that the picnic area has been given a more organic shape to tie into the larger pattern of the landscape, and the adjacent splash park would provide some sound. Mr. Jordan said that the area of the splash park has been further developed in recent weeks, subsequent to the submission of the current presentation; the splash park would include a water jets and a water wall. He added that the use of curves along access routes is constrained by the standards for barrier-free access. He said that the transition between formal languages is more difficult in the area north of the central plaza and splash pad because of the need to keep the incline smooth, at approximately three percent, for this primary route into the site.
Acknowledging the challenges presented by the site, Ms. Lehrer commented that a full review of the grading design is difficult because of its many elements. She recommended further resolution of the awkward angular wall around the central plaza, perhaps through the addition of more curves. She also suggested adding more trees in the lower area near the building's entrance.
Ms. Meyer commented that this project is reminiscent of the recent project for additions and renovations to Murch Elementary School, which similarly occupies a large sloping site and had to return several times as a concept submission. She said that grading and microtopography are also architectural issues, and she commended the inclusion of a model as an excellent means of understanding the topography. However, she said that a model requires a clear concept, which this proposal still lacks. She endorsed the use of the Tiber Creek tributary as an inspiration for the character of the site circulation, but said that curves are used so abundantly throughout the design that the organizing concept of the site design does not read strongly enough. She said that the project could develop in either of two directions: with the fluid, terracing logic applied over the entire site, which appears to be the approach; or with this logic applied only where the creek existed historically. She suggested making a clear decision between these two concepts. She said that the first concept would be strong as an overall site strategy, but then the angled wall at the splash park would be contrary to the logic of everything else. She described different ways of treating the stream as a metaphor, such as through different paving alone, or through a different planting scheme than for the rest of the site. She said that the project needs a larger planting budget to ensure the planting of enough trees to provide comfortable shaded walks, particularly on the west side. She said that the final conceptual issue is geometry and understanding how many circular forms can really be used; she commented that some of the circles appear superfluous. She cited the main gathering place of the central plaza as the one necessary circle, and she suggested using more arcing meanders with just this single circle—which she suggested might instead be treated as an ellipse.
In summary, Ms. Meyer emphasized the need to clarify the geometry of the ground plane relative to a conceptual idea, commenting that the geometry has become confused and overly complicated as the design is being developed in more detail. She expressed support for the general direction, emphasizing the need for greater clarity about the fundamental design concept.
Mr. Krieger supported Ms. Meyer's recommendations. He asked for clarification of the material proposed for the south facade of the first floor, noting that the booklet identified this as fiber cement panels but in the presentation it was described as metal panels. He expressed concern about the choice of material, particularly because this wall could easily be vandalized with graffiti; Ms. Meyer added that it would be in shade. Mr. Krieger added that this question relates to the overall need for more conceptual clarity.
Ms. Gilbert said that another conceptual issue is the treatment of the northwest corner of the building, near the urban farm; she said that this corner, located at approximately the center of the site, is where the topography offers the most expansive views; she recommended emphasizing this location as a promontory where visitors can enjoy the panorama. She added that the site design appears to be developing in the right direction. Mr. Krieger agreed, commenting that the programming for the building programming is reasonable, but reiterating his concern with the color proposed for the large gymnasium wall. Ms. Gilbert added that the landscape walls also need color, which could be provided by vegetation.
Secretary Luebke summarized the Commission's consensus to request a further concept submission that addresses the comments provided. Chairman Powell conveyed the Commission's appreciation for the continuing development of the project. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
F. Events DC (Washington Convention and Sports Authority)
CFA 17/NOV/16-7, Saint Elizabeths East Campus, Oak Street, SE. New entertainment and sports arena. Concept. Ms. Batcheler introduced the concept design for a new entertainment and sports arena (ESA) building on the St. Elizabeths East Campus, submitted by Events DC in partnership with the D.C. Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) and Monumental Sports and Entertainment. She noted that the East Campus is owned by the District of Columbia, which is redeveloping this National Historic Landmark property as a new mixed-use neighborhood center; the Commission reviewed a master plan and design guidelines for this redevelopment in July 2012. She said that the ESA would serve several purposes: a flexible entertainment facility; the new home court for the WNBA Washington Mystics basketball team; and a practice facility for the NBA Washington Wizards basketball team. The development team for the Wizards may also use the building. She asked Greg O'Dell, president and chief executive officer of Events DC, to begin the presentation.
Mr. O'Dell said that the ESA, in addition to serving as a professional basketball facility, would host medium-scale concerts, amateur sports contests, and community events. He said that the building is intended to promote gender equity in professional sports by providing a dedicated facility for the Mystics, which currently shares facilities with the Wizards in the Verizon Center in downtown Washington. He asked Ed Fisher, executive director of the St. Elizabeths East Campus development project for DMPED, to continue the presentation.
Mr. Fisher said that DMPED is developing the 183-acre St. Elizabeths East Campus in accordance with a master plan that calls for residential, commercial, cultural, and institutional uses, as well as medical facilities. He said that the mayor believes the campus redevelopment project offers the opportunity to build a new entertainment and sports complex in Ward 8, a historically underserved area of the city; the ESA would be the first major new project on the campus. The first phase of the redevelopment calls for buildings containing approximately 250 apartment units, 60 to 120 townhouses, and an office building with ground-floor retail.
Mr. O'Dell noted that the project had been presented to the community at a series of five meetings. He introduced Michael Marshall and Paola Moya of Marshall Moya Design, part of the architectural team for the project, to present the proposal.
Ms. Moya described the existing uses nearby and on the St. Elizabeths East Campus, including the current Saint Elizabeths Hospital and the Congress Heights Metro station. She said that future development on the East Campus is outlined in the master plan, which divides the site into several development sectors; the ESA would be located in the master plan's "Campus Intersection" sector. She said that some buildings are considered non-contributing to the landmarked St. Elizabeths campus and would be demolished; this includes Building 119, which is on the site of the proposed ESA. The buildings within immediate vicinity of the ESA—a complex of historic two- to three-story, H-shaped red brick buildings with red-tile roofs and interstitial courtyards—would be retained and adaptively reused as apartment buildings in a separate development project. To increase access to the East Campus and the ESA, new bike lanes and a new entrance to the existing Metrorail station are proposed. The master plan also calls for extending 13th Street along the northeast side of the ESA, although the road extension would be completed after the anticipated opening of the ESA.
Ms. Moya indicated the streets surrounding the ESA building site: Oak Street on the southwest, Cypress Street on the northwest, the proposed 13th Street extension on the northeast, and Cherry Street on the southeast; the building would front Oak Street. She said that most ESA event attendees, after walking from the Metrorail station, would likely enter the arena through the large entrance at the corner of Cherry and Oak Streets; visitors arriving from Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, Alabama Avenue, or elsewhere on campus could also enter the arena through several other public entrances along Oak Street. Vehicular access from Cypress Street would lead to player- and employee-only parking and a sunken entry plaza for the training facility, as well as providing access to a service yard and loading dock at the rear of the building.
Mr. Marshall said that the ESA would have two primary program areas: the training facility on its northwestern end and the arena event space on its southeastern end, closer to the Metrorail station. He said that this program is a new typology that combines a training facility and arena in one building. He indicated the grade change of approximately thirteen feet across the site; the ESA would be built into the hill, allowing for public access at multiple levels. The arena's basketball court would be surrounded by stepped seating, some of which would be accessed from a ground-level concourse; the Oak Street side would also have mezzanine seating, and the concourse would pass through the undercroft of this mezzanine. The two practice courts would be ringed by two levels of offices for the teams. A roof enclosing the arena space would slope down toward 13th Street, while the practice facility portion of the building would have flat roofs; the lower levels of the roof would be planted.
Mr. Marshall indicated the ground-level restaurant, concession, and retail space, which would be accessible from both inside and outside the arena on Oak Street through moveable glass storefront walls; these facilities are intended to enliven the immediate area and could be open for business even when the arena is closed. Concourse activity would also be visible through the storefront and additional curtainwall glazing, which would wrap around the south corner of the building. He said that in addition to the glass storefront and glazing, the street-level facade would be clad in a cream-colored block similar in shape to Roman brick. The upper-level roof volumes, which project above the lower roofline to enclose the multi-level court areas, would be clad in red and beige metal panels. He said that the proposed material and color palette is intended to create a consistent public realm across Oak Street by referencing elements of the existing historic buildings: the cream-colored block is intended to reference the limestone detailing, while the red-colored metal panels are intended to reference the brick facades and terra-cotta roof tiles. He provided samples of the proposed cladding materials, indicating that some may be textured to give variation to the facade and a matte, flat appearance resembling brick or terra cotta. He said that the landscape elements planned for the site would be consistent with the rest of the campus standards to be implemented by ODMPED and the D.C. Department of General Services. He introduced landscape architect Craig Atkins of Wiles Mensch Corporation to present the landscape design.
Mr. Atkins indicated the boundaries of the proposed landscape work; improvements to areas outside the boundary, including the sidewalks, curbs, and streets, would be completed as part of the campus-wide infrastructure project. Along Cypress Street, the parking lot for players and staff would have permeable paving. A bioretention area punctuated with shade trees would be located in the middle of this parking lot; an additional bioretention area would be planted along the rear of the building. A security fence around the parking lot would run along the Cypress Street edge of the site, continuing across a triangular lawn toward the building. Plantings would be selected to shield views into the parking lot from Cypress Street, and the triangular lawn would be planted with low grasses and trees to maintain the open views toward a nearby historic building and to reinforce a pedestrian scale along the sidewalk. He said that the sunken plaza and entryway for players and staff is designed to fit in the small space between the parking lot and the building.
Mr. Atkins said that the building's frontage on Oak Street would be primarily hardscape; the design of this frontage would be coordinated with the agencies and developers executing the campus infrastructure improvements. Generally, the character would be an urban plaza with an alternating rhythm of street trees, planting beds, and streetlights along the curb line; the streetlights would include D.C.'s standard single-globe lampposts and contemporary stanchion lampposts.
Chairman Powell congratulated the design team and the D.C. government for their work on this important project, and he invited comments from the Commission members on the concept design. Mr. Dunson expressed appreciation for the comprehensive presentation. He asked for clarification of which historic buildings would be retained and how these buildings have influenced the proposed design and material palette for the ESA. Mr. Marshall indicated the historic building adjacent to the proposed ESA and those across Oak Street that would be retained. He said that the ESA's design attempts to balance the presence of this large building with the low-rise buildings across Oak Street: rather than mimicking them, the contemporary architectural language and materials proposed for the ESA are intended to complement them through careful massing and varied texture. He said that the ESA would begin the introduction of a new scale on the campus, and the design is intended to mediate the transition between the two- to three-story historic buildings across Oak Street and the eight- to nine-story buildings proposed for the opposite side of 13th Street. He added that the project team has been meeting with different groups to discuss how the new building would fit in its context, and he expressed confidence that when the master plan is fully executed, the ESA will be a complement to the overall campus.
Mr. Dunson commented that the proposed ESA would set an aesthetic precedent for the continued development of the campus and serve as a nexus between old and new. He asked for more description of the roof design, which he characterized as expansive and a prominent element of the new building. Mr. Marshall said that photovoltaic panels are proposed for the large roof surfaces, which would also be a light color to minimize solar heat gain; he also noted discussions regarding the development of an electrical "microgrid" for the campus, which would connect to the photovoltaic panels. He said that the ESA would have to meet the D.C. green construction code.
Ms. Meyer commended the project team for the disposition of the program throughout the building's massing, particularly at the ground level, and said that the design would offer a positive experience for patrons. She asked for clarification of the proposed entry sequence for employees and athletes. Mr. Marshall responded that they would arrive at the training facility as pedestrians or in vehicles, and they would then descend stairs or a ramp to a sunken entry plaza, entering one level below the ground floor. In addition, a covered arcade intended for Mystics players would lead to another entrance closer to the arena court. Ms. Meyer said that the design of these entrances and the parking lot would result in a substandard experience for employees and athletes, observing that intense western sunlight would make the lot particularly inhospitable. She questioned whether the fifty-space size of the parking lot is necessary; Mr. Marshall responded that this number of spaces is required by Events DC. Mr. O'Dell added that the fifty spaces would serve the majority of the building's staff and players, but acknowledged that some would need to park off-site. Ms. Meyer recommended further study of the optimal number of parking spaces for the lot; she suggested reducing the number of parking spaces and combining the small sunken entry plaza with the nearby single-function bioretention area to create a larger, more welcoming garden space and entrance experience for employees and athletes. She contrasted this goal with the suburban character of the presented design, and she suggested that athletes would be able to walk to off-site parking.
Mr. O'Dell expressed appreciation for the comments but noted that security for the players is a factor in siting the parking lot close to the building. Ms. Lehrer suggested designing the parking lot to accommodate all of the players, while employees could park on the street or in an off-site lot. Mr. Fisher said that a campus parking study would be completed in December 2016, including consideration of requirements for patrons, staff, and employees. Ms. Meyer acknowledged the security challenges and encouraged the preparation of the parking study. She also requested the opportunity to review additional documentation of the design, including perspective drawings that depict the proposed complex together with the historic buildings. Mr. Marshall agreed, noting that the proposed design is intended to create a sense of place within the historic campus that could be further depicted.
Observing the two re-entrant corners of the arena volume and roof on the 13th Street side of the ESA, Ms. Lehrer suggested completing the form of the roof by extending it across these open corners, perhaps with trellises. Mr. Dunson agreed, adding that this would also result in an improved view from the future buildings across 13th Street. He suggested that designing the roof for public access could mitigate its expansiveness; he also suggested consideration of the texture of the roof material. Mr. Marshall noted that the design would not place mechanical equipment on the roofs, and Mr. Dunson and Ms. Lehrer supported this intention.
Ms. Gilbert asked if the streetscape improvements on each side of Oak Street would be completed simultaneously. Mr. Fisher responded that the rehabilitation of the historic buildings would most likely begin after the ESA is completed; he said that coordination meetings would help to ensure that the campus landscape is cohesive. Ms. Gilbert advised close coordination with the developer of the historic buildings to achieve a consistent appearance for the proposed street trees. Ms. Moya added that the proposal was shown in a public forum the previous night, and community members expressed support and enthusiasm for the design.
Chairman Powell expressed strong support for the concept design and noted the comments of the Commission members to be taken into consideration. Upon a second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission approved the concept design with the comments provided.
G. Department of the Treasury / U.S. Mint
CFA 17/NOV/16-8, Medal for the Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Designs for a bronze medal and duplicates. Final. (Previous: CFA 20/NOV/08-6.) Mr. Simon introduced the proposal for a medal honoring Secretary of the Treasury Jacob J. Lew, continuing the U.S. Mint's tradition of striking medals for many of the holders of this office. He noted that the presentation will include additional designs that were not included in the submission materials distributed in advance of the meeting. He asked April Stafford of the Mint to present the design alternatives.
Ms. Stafford expressed appreciation for the participation of several Commission members in evaluating the submissions for the Mint's recent design competitions for two commemorative coin programs, scheduled for issue in 2018. The design competitions were specified in the authorizing legislation for these programs.
Ms. Stafford said that the past medals honoring a Secretary of the Treasury have typically featured the secretary's portrait and the starting date of service on the obverse; the reverse typically includes symbols and quotations that are of special meaning for the secretary. The current design alternatives have been developed in consultation with the secretary's staff. She presented four obverse alternatives, each featuring a portrait of Secretary Lew, his name, and a background image of the U.S. flag. She presented five alternatives for the reverse, with design elements that include the Treasury seal, the Main Treasury Building, and various views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, where Secretary Lew's father entered the U.S. when immigrating. Two of the reverse designs also include quotations from Abraham Lincoln and Harriet Tubman. Additional inscriptions on some of the obverse and reverse designs include Secretary Lew's title or starting date as secretary. She noted that obverse alternative #1-A is the preference of both Secretary Lew and the Mint's Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC). For the reverse, Secretary Lew's preferences are alternatives #4 and #5; the CCAC preference is reverse #5.
Ms. Meyer asked for information about the medal's size; Ms. Stafford responded that the bronze medal would be three inches in diameter, and half-size bronze duplicates may also be struck. Chairman Powell and Ms. Meyer supported the preferences of Secretary Lew and the CCAC: obverse #1-A and reverse #4 or #5. Ms. Stafford noted that Secretary Lew requested the development of alternatives that include Ellis Island as well as the Statue of Liberty; both are included on reverse #5, while reverse #4 depicts only the Statue of Liberty due to the length of the accompanying quotation. Ms. Lehrer commented that the quotation from Abraham Lincoln on reverse #4 is more interesting, but reverse #5 with the Harriet Tubman quotation includes a wider range of design elements as requested by Secretary Lew. Ms. Meyer commented that neither quotation seems related to the theme of Ellis Island and immigration, although both quotations are beautiful. Ms. Stafford responded that the quotations, as well as Ellis Island, have personal meaning for Secretary Lew.
Chairman Powell expressed a preference for reverse alternative #2, commenting that the seal of the Department of the Treasury is suitable for inclusion on a medal; Ms. Meyer added that this alternative is simple and clear. Mr. Dunson suggested a compromise recommendation for reverse alternative #1, depicting the historic main Treasury Building. He acknowledged that this recommendation would not include either of the quotations, nor the Statue of Liberty; not all of Secretary Lew's preferred design elements can be included.
Ms. Gilbert observed that the depictions of Ellis Island in alternatives #3 and #5 appear to include a recently constructed glass canopy in front of the Main Hall; she recommended an image that is more historically accurate, perhaps removing this canopy. Ms. Lehrer agreed and suggested that the Commission support one of the preferences of Secretary Lew. She said that reverse alternative #5 would be the best of the preferred reverse designs, because the lengthier quotation on alternative #4 may be difficult to read at the reduced size of the duplicate medals. She also supported Secretary Lew's preference for obverse alternative #1-A, while commenting that the portrait in alternatives #2 and 2-A appears more handsome.
Chairman Powell summarized the consensus of the Commission to recommend obverse alternative #1-A and reverse alternative #5, with the request for further study of revising or removing the canopy depicted at Ellis Island.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 3:49 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA